What's Up in YA

Vicious Sirens, Queerly Pink, and More YA Book Talk: June 26, 2023

Hey YA Readers!

I don’t know about you, but I’m here and ready for summer. I feel like I have not gotten one moment to enjoy any of the last season, as I have not even hung up my hammock yet, despite ideal weather for it. Maybe this will be the week I finally can because I have a pile of books calling my name and cold lemonade in the fridge.

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Let’s dive into everything new books and Pride this week.

Bookish Goods

phone grip that says "books over people" with colorful flowers in the background.

Books Over People Phone Grip by IvyResinShop

I saw a TikTok claiming that young people think phone grips are a sign that a person is An Old and look: I don’t care. Today’s phones are made for men’s hands, not women’s, and as someone with extremely small hands even for a woman, I need one to be able…to hold my phone. I do go to bed by 8 p.m. and can’t have caffeine after 1 p.m., thanks for asking.


This awesome phone grip is for fellow fans like me who also want to make it a little more bookish. $27.

New Releases

We round up the month of June with even more excellent options across so many different genres and formats for new YA books. This week’s hardcover release highlights below include a memoir and a fantasy that will leave fans of the new The Little Mermaid film super stoked.

As always, grab the full list of this week’s releases over here. You’ll see the summer 2023 YA roundup hitting site — and here! — soon.

monstrous book cover

Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story by Sarah Myer

I’ve been around YA long enough to know how rare adoption stories were — and still are — and then to remember discussion of how few transracial adoption stories exist — and how few still exist. But we have gotten better, and we’re seeing more representation on this front from those who experienced transracial adoption.

Myer’s work is a graphic memoir about growing up as a Korean adoptee to white parents. It’s a story of feeling like never fitting in and always being stared at, but through a passion for fandom and art, found a community and understanding of herself.

This looks fantastic!

sing me to sleep book cover

Sing Me To Sleep by Gabi Burton

Saoirse Sorkova is a liar, and it’s how she survives. To her kingdom, where she’s a soldier-in-training, she claims to be a siren; this helps her avoid being executed. To the group of assassins she works for at night, she lies about identity. To her family, she claims her siren powers are perfectly under control and she never feels the urge to kill.

She’s a great trainee, but her lies mean she can’t let herself get into the spotlight. But when her sister is in trouble, Saoirse needs to become a personal bodyguard to the prince and will now be fully at the center of her kingdom’s attention.

Saoirse should hate Prince Hayes. But she actually can’t resist him, as he’s nothing like his segregationist father. She begins to fall for him, in fact, even as they team up to strike down the deadliest threat in their kingdom together.

What he doesn’t know is she is the one they’re after.

This is the first in a series and while it’s certainly darker than The Little Mermaid, readers itching for those under-the-sea tales led by characters of color will want to grab this one ASAP.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

Obviously, queer books are regularly recommended and highlighted in this newsletter all year long. But today marks the end of the ~*~ official ~*~ Pride lists for the month. We’ve talked about a rainbow of queer YA, queer YA comics, LGBTQ+ nonfiction for YA readers, and now we’re going to highlight all things pink.

These are your queerest books in one of the best queer colors: pink. All of these books have published in 2023, so you’re getting some very new, very pink LGBTQ+ fiction to enjoy. I have not included titles already covered in previous newsletters this June. This is not a comprehensive list, either, so not everything that can be mentioned is.

Let’s dive in.

another dimension of us book cover

Another Dimension of Us by Mike Albo

Described as The Breakfast Club meets Stranger Things, this book is told on more than one time line and travels more than one dimension.

In 1986 at the height of the AIDS crisis which filled the country with homophobia (more blatantly so), Tommy knows he’s falling in love with his best friend Renaldo. He knows he can’t share this. But one night Renaldo is hit by lightning and is no longer the person he once was.

It’s now 2044 and Pris Devree wakes up from a nightmare involving a boy named Tommy and a house in her neighborhood that has earned the reputation of “Murder House.” Pris needs to understand, so she goes to the house and stumbles upon a self-help book.

But it’s not what you might think. It’s a guide to trans dimensional travel, and now Pris and Tommy are working together to save Renaldo from a demon.

dear medusa book cover

Dear Medusa by Olivia A. Cole

Alicia is 16, and she’s subject to nonstop judgment from her classmates. It comes because she has sex, so she’s, of course, seen as easy. A slut. Every other name you can imagine for a girl like her.

Except: Alicia was sexually abused by a teacher. She’s a survivor. And of course, it’s a popular teacher who did that to her.

As Alicia begins to drop out of everything that brings her joy, she finds a series of letters from someone else at school. Someone who claims they’ve been a victim, too. Now, she wants to get to the truth of that story and her own.

This verse novel is one for readers who are itching for a compelling and powerful story of redemption, race, power, and maybe even love.

highly suspicious and unfairly cute book cover

Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert

Bradley is an all-around good guy. He’s a football player, has his OCD pretty well managed, and he excels in school. Well, minus the class he shares with his former best friend Celine.

Celine is conspiracy theory obsessed. She’s a content creator and has built a following over things like aliens and UFOs and more. Problem is, despite how popular she is online, she’s not cool in real life. Even Bradley abandoned her for the cool kids when he could.

So when Celine signs up for a survival course, she’s surprised to see Bradley has, too. They’re forced to work together and as they join forces in order to win a big prize, they might discover they still have a lot in common…and maybe even start to feel some sparks.

This one is for readers looking for more bisexual representation.

imogen obviously book cover

Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli

This is *easily* one of my favorite YA books this year and is one that captures the experience of never feeling queer enough and feeling as though the gatekeepers to queerness are holding people back from expressing who they truly are.

Imogen is the token straight friend among so many queer people. Or is she? When she spends the weekend with her best friend at her future college, Imogene is exposed to a world of queer joy she’s never experienced before, and this includes meeting a girl she might — possibly, maybe — start to catch feelings for. But she’s always been straight. She can’t possibly NOT be. 

This is a story of the complexities of identity and what happens when gatekeepers decide who can and cannot identify as a part of a particular community. Imogen is a bit naive but is lovable for it, and love interest Tessa is a wonderfully, fully-fleshed character who helps Imogene realize that the ways she’s been taught to think about queerness are, perhaps, quite limiting. Fun, funny, and heartening. 

then everything happens at once book cover

Then Everything Happens at Once by M-E Girard

Baylee has always had a crush on her BFF Freddie, but since she’s not his type, she’s 1. not made a move on him and 2. not bothered wasting energy on making something happen.

She begins to fall for Alex, a funny barista that Baylee meets online and has instant chemistry with. She’s perfect!

So when Freddie DOES start to engage Baylee in a way that’s clearly more than friends, she’s suddenly unsure what to do. That a virus has just shut down the world is not helping the situation.

As always, thanks for hanging out. We’ll see you later this week for your paperback releases and YA book news.

Until then, happy reading!

— Kelly Jensen, currently reading Disorientation.